Edinburgh Filmhouse unveils £50m building plan

11-storey building will be '21st century temple for film'

by Amber Wilkinson

An artist's impression of how the finished building will look in Edinburgh's Festival Square
An artist's impression of how the finished building will look in Edinburgh's Festival Square Photo: Courtesy of EIFF
Edinburgh Filmhouse has revealed plans for a new £50 million building in the city that will feature six screens and incorporate a dedicated festival centre for the EIFF and other year-round festivals.

The proposals for the 11-storey - which it hopes to be completed by 2025 - building also include a restaurant terrace area, with views of the Castle and a rooftop screening space. The festival centre will feature a double height auditorium, to be used for lectures and special events. It will feature retractable seating, so that it can be transformed into an event space. There will also be a cafe/bar on the first floor. All areas of the building will be fully accessible.

Situated in Festival Square, just along the street from the festival's current home and across the road from the Usher Hall, the planned building has been designed by Richard Murphy Architects and will be carbon-neutral.

There will now be a public consultation on the plan, which will officially run from today until June 3. The Filmhouse says it is "looking to engage with customers, partners, stakeholders including programming partners, creative learning partners and the Scottish film sector, community councils and councillors, and residents of Edinburgh to gauge support for the plans and further develop the designs before submitting a formal Planning Application to the City of Edinburgh Council during the summer". It adds that the eye-shaped "oculus design reflects the eye on the world".

The current Filmhouse building has been in use for more than 40 years.

The current Edinburgh Filmhouse has served cinemagoers for more than 40 years
The current Edinburgh Filmhouse has served cinemagoers for more than 40 years Photo: Max Crawford
Three all-day (10am-7pm) public consultation events will take place in Filmhouse on Sunday, March 29, Wednesday, April 1 and Tuesday, April 28, where members of the Filmhouse team, Richard Murphy Architects and property consultancy Montagu Evans will be present. There will be two Filmhouse Members’ Events for its more than 5,500 members on Sunday, March 29 and Monday April 6.

It will be possible to give feedback through an online survey and through comment cards at the Filmhouse, as well as informally and formally with staff.

Following the public consultation, the plans will be further developed before a formal planning application is submitted to the city council over the summer. You can view more of the artist's plans and impressions in our gallery.

Full costing of the project will take place later in 2020 to coincide with the formal planning application, but the cost is currently estimated to be in the region of £50 million.

An indicative timeline, contingent on the planning application decision and fundraising success, hopes to start work on the building in 2023 with it opening in 2025.

Ken Hay, CEO of Centre for the Moving Image (including Filmhouse and Edinburgh International Film Festival) said: “For more than 40 years Filmhouse has been at the centre of Edinburgh’s cultural life, and for more than 70 years Edinburgh International Film Festival has been an international beacon for film and film culture.

“This proposed new building will transform what we’re able to do for Edinburgh’s residents and Scotland’s film community, as well as providing Scotland with a physical celebration of the most popular art form. Through doubling the number of screens and seats for regular cinemagoers, creating dedicated education and learning spaces, and developing an iconic festival centre, all within a fully accessible and carbon neutral building, this really is a 21st century temple for film.

“We are hugely excited about sharing this vision during the consultation period, and are looking forward to engaging with as many people as we can in helping us shape the future for Filmhouse and lovers of film.”

Sandy Begbie, Chair of Centre for the Moving Image added: “These are very exciting times for the Filmhouse – the opportunity to create a new home for film in Edinburgh, with a landmark building in the city centre. This will provide a new state of the art home for Filmhouse and Edinburgh International Film Festival, but at its heart this is for the citizens of Edinburgh and Scotland and the entire film industry.

"The building will retain the purpose, values and culture that has served us so well over many years but in a building that will take us forward for the next 50 years.  This will also allow us to continue the valuable work we do in the community and the development of talent for the Scottish film industry.

"This is what makes us different and the new building will provide the facilities to grow and develop that work.”

The news comes a day after a film studio in the city's Port of Leith got the green light.

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